Asked about Jax school closures, Gov. DeSantis says ‘the money follows the student’
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 5/5/23-Gov. Ron DeSantis during a news conference after the 2023 legislative session concluded, Friday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

FLAPOL050523CH039
The Duval County School Board is exploring plans to close schools amid student attrition.

Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed potential public school closures at a charter school in Jacksonville.

DeSantis noted that in Florida’s funding model, “the money follows the student,” but that he expects a robust presence in public schools even as charters and private institutions increase market share.

“The money follows the student and the family. It’s not embedded in a certain system or a certain framework. And so the student and the family will be making those decisions,” DeSantis said in Mixon Town at the Jacksonville Classical Academy.

“Even with robust choice, you are still going to have huge enrollment through school districts. There’s no question about that. I mean, we have 400,000 kids almost on private scholarship, almost 400,000 kids in public charters. But the balance (is) millions in school districts. And so that’s going to continue to be an important part,” the Governor added.

The Governor’s comments come as the Duval County School Board mulls a plan that could close neighborhood schools, with elementary schools being particularly hard hit.

“The closings could eliminate two high schools — Westside High and A. Philip Randolph Career Academies — and shutter much-loved grade schools … Fishweir, Lone Star and Seabreeze elementaries as well as Anchor Academy and Atlantic Beach and John Stockton,” reported Steve Patterson in The Florida Times-Union earlier this month.

While Jacksonville Beach has passed a resolution opposing potential school closures, it’s not binding on the independently-elected county School Board.

DeSantis said his team wants “parents to be the one that are driving this by being able to choose the school that’s best for them,” while avoiding weighing in on the specific closures being explored.

“And I think what you’ve seen in many parts of the state is the school districts have had to respond by offering programs that they want and they’re really competing to get suited. So I think that’s the best model,” he said.

As WJXT reported earlier this month, the district has lost 30,000 students in the last decade.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


18 comments

  • Michael K

    April 16, 2024 at 11:33 am

    Charter schools have a terrible track record in Florida – one of the highest closure rates in the nation. And the private religious schools that are siphoning public education funds have no accountability, and can openly discriminate against kids they don’t want – especially students with disabilities. But the whole point is to destroy public education and dumb down the populace.

    • rick whitaker

      April 16, 2024 at 12:19 pm

      WHY CAN’T YOU STUPID FLORIDA VOTERS GET IT RIGHT.

  • MH/Duuuval

    April 16, 2024 at 12:52 pm

    Half the county school budget comes from the state and half from local sources. How does Dee get to determine ALL the budgetary concerns?

  • D is for Destruction

    April 16, 2024 at 3:08 pm

    There is also the flight to neighbouring counties with better newer infrastructure and lower tax burdens – St Johns, Clay, Nassau, have seen tremendous growth while Duval is shrinking. Of course they leech off Jacksonville, working there, but then they take their tax dollars and kids and spending home to their own counties. Anyone with money in Duval already sends their kids to private school. Charter Schools in Jax are mostly fly by night scams that people fall for if they’re new to the city. DCSB is burdened with decades of legacy issues and mismanagement, is wholly independent and unaccountable, and is now heavily politicized, recently taken over by moms for liberty types hand picked by D. The district can’t even attract applicants for superintendent because anybody who takes that job gets run out on a rail. The last one was terrible but got her big payday and then vamoosed. The one before that was great so he was hated and run out. Who would want to work for Duval. Or keep their kids there. Now with even higher taxes (that were supposed to pay for infrastructure and teacher pay increases?!) to pay for closure of some of the most beloved and best performing schools in the disctrict? Yeah, they’re not talking about closing underperforming schools. They want to close the best ones, the ones that have always performed, that are beloved neighbourhood institutions. It will be a nightmare for families and teachers and no good will come of it. Duval County School Board is viciously negligent, wasteful, corrupt, unaccountable, and not transparent, and they have zero oversight and there is zero ability for the public to appeal or the city to override their decisions. DeSantis is to blame for the vacuum effect that is draining and destroying public education, but Duval district has been working on destroying itself for decades. I’m sure he’s really sad about that.

    • Margaret

      April 16, 2024 at 6:26 pm

      The last Superintendent was not “terrible.” She made possible lifting the overall rating grades in the County.

      What brought her down was the lax supervision by her sub-ordinate in charge of such things, to investigate and take seriously, accusations of sexual harassment at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts by a male voice teacher.
      He was dismissed and faces charges in Court. No further word on his fate, yet.

      Supt. Green was a fine, intelligent educator who knew how to lead. It is a tragedy that her final year in office was soiled by other;s actions.

      • MH/Duuuval

        April 16, 2024 at 8:19 pm

        Dr. Greene was a local who went to the top of the public education mountain when she came back home as Super. Her failure was in exercising oversight, and it was a fatal one.

        It’s telling today that so few educators of her ilk are applying to succeed her, but then who wants this job at this time — except a masochist?

        • MH/Duuuval

          April 17, 2024 at 11:17 pm

          As of today, the number of applicants has jumped significantly.

      • DeeStruction

        April 17, 2024 at 2:19 am

        I didn’t think DG’s record was soiled by others’ individual actions. Duval was lucky to have the last 2 superintendents and will not see their like again. It’s not about the scandals even though that was what did it. Things happen and you have to deal with them and get out in front of it. If it hadn’t been the scandals it would have been politics they’d have used to run her out. No, I hate how they sold the tax increase like it was going to pay for teacher salaries (not) and completing necessary infrastructure upgrades (not) which had been promised forever, based on growth needs, and now not only are those suddenly in reverse, we find out many of those much loved, top performing schools they promised to make necessary maintenance and capital improvements, they’re going to close. (It’s not about the taxes it’s about accountability and transparency and stewardship.) Did this just all happen since DG left? A complete 180? Or was it already being discussed at the same time they were promising to maintain the schools they are now going to close? The board got politicized even before DG left. We don’t know where all that additional tax money is going/has gone, (haven’t ever really, therein lies the problem), and they’re already saying they can’t meet bus demand and there are budget shortfalls but nobody seems to know what that is or where. Which is it, we have so many students they have to ride the city bus now, or we have so many fewer students we have to close your A+ neighbourhood school and ship your kid across town. They can’t even pick a narrative. Everyone is acting like it’s some big shock that vouchers have shrunk the schools when that has been the state’s plan all along. It was expected. Years ago they had a smaller budget and classes were overflowing (but somehow there were actually enough buses). All they wanted then was a bigger budget and smaller classes. And now they have that, including real estate which is already long paid for, and want to topple the entire table and start over. All at once. I get the theoretical energy footprint argument and streamlining if they scrap it all and funnel more kids into fewer schools, especially high schools, but in practice it stinks. You’ve got billions in construction, more transportation issues, expansion issues, and with fewer schools it makes it more difficult to adapt to fluctuations in growth and population, leaving even more room for dependency on non-publics. Once those schools and the land are gone, they’re gone. They’ll be new yuppy condos or multi family housing or sit vacant for decades. I mean, shuffle some kids around where it makes sense, close the schools with hardly anyone there to start with, make energy upgrades and efficiencies and build outs for existing, well functioning schools, but why break what is actually working properly like A grade elementaries and the magnets, while ignoring what is broken, like the charters draining the system? They want to close top performing, beloved, active, full neighbourhood public schools (for little kids) when those schools are still vitally needed now and will be in the future? The schools that are the anchors for the whole district. Creating even more chaos, disillusion, and more of a vacuum? The whole situation was and is typical of DCPS which continues to shoot itself in the foot, further alienating the families and communities that are their strongest supporters. Meanwhile the pro voucher crowd are laughing and saying told you so and I hate that. I know this stuff is hard but they can do better. And Duval taxpayers deserve to have a say.

    • MH/Duuuval

      April 16, 2024 at 8:11 pm

      “Charter Schools in Jax are mostly fly by night scams that people fall for if they’re new to the city.”

      This conflates charter and voucher/private schools. The latter are overwhelmingly sectarian and don’t seem to have any accountability, thanks to the Legislature, except for a disgruntled parent pulling their child from the school. Caveat emptor.

      At least two national for-profit charter management chains — one operates 200 charter school while the other operates 180 — operate a dozen or more charter schools in Duval. Here’s a scandal in the making as these chains amass real-estate holdings at taxpayer expense that can be bought and sold by the for-profit managers.

      • rick whitaker

        April 16, 2024 at 8:29 pm

        MH, to me, most non-public schools are scams or something not good.

        • MH/Duuuval

          April 16, 2024 at 10:45 pm

          That was certainly true of the for-profit trade schools and colleges that took advantage of so many student borrowers who were overcharged and under-served, and left holding a bag of student loans.

  • rick whitaker

    April 16, 2024 at 10:59 pm

    MH, raygun sure did mess things up. i went to several schools on several grants and the gi bill. all of that was available before raygun and is all gone after raygun. he sold our country’s soul when he privatized and profiteered our education system down the drain. DAMN RAYGUN !

  • Dont Say FLA

    April 17, 2024 at 4:07 pm

    If the money follows the student, then high school football coaches who want to be paid more first need to win more football games to attract more & better (financed) students to the school where their team is winning. Make more money for the school with your W-L record and you’ll be paid more.

  • MH/Duuuval

    April 17, 2024 at 8:38 pm

    “No, I hate how they sold the tax increase like it was going to pay for teacher salaries (not) and completing necessary infrastructure upgrades (not) .. .”

    The first tax increase went for capital improvements; the second went to pay teachers, provide upgraded play equipment. Nate Monroe had a recent T-U article listing the causes for the shortfall. Hint: It’s not about mishandling of the money.

    “The pro-voucher crowd” is celebrating — they can see the promised land from here. Their penultimate goal, unlimited vouchers, has been achieved. Now all that’s left is to sell off the public school system — or the parts of it that are most attractive — to the private sector. This is a MAGA corporate raid of a public system that has served us well and would continue to do so given the opportunity and community engagement — just as occurred when Zahn and Lenny tried to privitavize JEA.

    • DeeStruction

      April 18, 2024 at 7:52 pm

      Well I don’t mind paying the taxes if they’re actually being used for the teachers and the schools but they need to do a better job explaining that to taxpayers (and the schools and the teachers). But they don’t act like they listen or have to be held accountable to the public they serve. There is a culture of insularity at the board that has always been. Closing the best schools is toxic because if people get upset they will start pulling their kids out of the school system in droves. People in Atlantic Beach, Neptune, Ortega, Jax Beach, West Jax, these people have the ability to send their kids to private or elsewhere but support the public school system until now because those schools have been great and much loved. If these people get pissed off then it will just further hollow out the district and like I said once those assets are gone, they’re gone. Then even if they want to expand later, they’re starting from scratch at massive expense as opposed to working with what they’ve got and making it better. I believe the intent of DCPS funnel plan is not about saving money and consolidating for efficiency. IF that were true then they’d be going about it much differently, trimming at the edges, gently shifting populations, stage pilot programs like they did with busing and magnets years ago, etc. This plan is intended to offload owned legacy assets (school buildings and land) of the BEST performing ANCHOR schools in order to hollow out the district. Much of the plan doesn’t even make sense in practice. It’s like something a twenty-something at their first consulting gig would come up with that sounds good on paper. My mother taught for 35 years in the district, elementary, middle, high school, magnet, and special needs, and I’ve heard and seen it all. Neptune Beach Elementary cannot accommodate all the other students from the surrounding regions, and it’s in a residential area with limits to expansion (and the traffic alone would overwhelm that neighborhood and the roads). So that’s just one example where they’re not being honest. You are more willing to give these people benefit of the doubt than I am. This DCPS plan is just going to play right into DEEstruction’s plan and I actually think that is the plan. I know I keep repeating myself but it’s just so upsetting.

  • The big lie

    April 18, 2024 at 6:21 pm

    The irony is that destroying and underfunding public education causes the very ills that serve as red meat for the G0P base to decry and save they’ll save everyone while profiting from destruction. The real effect is to return to a stratified system that hollows out, controls, and hobbles the middle class, creating all the systemic issues the G0P then point to and say it’s evil liberals’ doing and lazy entitlements and only they can fix it with more draconian and kick down kiss up policy, and on and on it goes, both sides further digging in their heels and nothing changing. Exhibit Reagan. This is nothing new, folks. It’s old hat tactics—just study Victorian England for where we’re headed back to (rinse and repeat). Supply side trickle down economics was always a quack justification theory for the destruction of the nation’s middle class to benefit the few, and time and generations have proved it for what it is: greed and the big lie. A utilitarian approach to supporting general public good with policies that promote health, attainable access to education, property ownership, financial services, fair tax burdens shared across the entire population, and access to jobs at fair wages and humane conditions, for as many people as possible—these used to be classical liberal goals and values, the hallmark of a well functioning democratic republic society. They were never ever viewed as socialism. To allow the G0P to rebrand what have always been considered classical public policies in a representative government as socialism, THAT is the big lie.

  • D struction

    April 18, 2024 at 7:58 pm

    My comments were blocked. Here again:

    I don’t mind paying the taxes if they’re actually being used for the teachers and the schools but they need to do a better job explaining that to taxpayers (and the schools and the teachers). There is a culture of insularity at the board that has always been. Closing the best schools is toxic because if people get upset they will start pulling their kids out of the school system in droves. People in Atlantic Beach, Neptune, Ortega, Jax Beach, West Jax, these people have the ability to send their kids to private or elsewhere but support the public school system until now because those schools have been great and much loved. If these people get ticked off then it will just further hollow out the district and like I said once those assets are gone, they’re gone. Then even if they want to expand later, they’re starting from scratch at massive expense as opposed to working with what they’ve got and making it better. I believe the intent of DCPS funnel plan is not about saving money and consolidating for efficiency. IF that were true then they’d be going about it much differently, trimming at the edges, gently shifting populations, stage pilot programs like they did with busing and magnets years ago, etc. This plan is intended to offload owned legacy assets (school buildings and land) of the BEST performing ANCHOR schools in order to hollow out the district. Their plan doesn’t even make sense in practice. It’s like something a twenty-something at their first consulting gig would come up with that sounds good on paper. My mother taught for 35 years in the district, elementary, middle, high school, magnet, and special needs, and I’ve heard and seen it all. Neptune Beach Elementary cannot accommodate all the other students from the surrounding regions, and it’s in a residential area with limits to expansion (and the traffic alone would overwhelm that neighborhood and the roads). So that’s just one example where they’re not being honest. You are more willing to give benefit of the doubt than I am. The school board plan is just going to play right into DEEstruction’s plan and I actually think that is the plan. I know I keep repeating myself but it’s just so upsetting.

  • a small world cup

    April 22, 2024 at 5:00 am

    The mention of the Duval County School Board considering a plan that could potentially close neighborhood schools, particularly impacting elementary schools, suggests that there may be ongoing discussions and potential changes to the local education landscape.

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704